The group sat silently waiting for the last man to arrive. Australian Security Intelligence Organization's Walter Lucas, First Assistant Director General of Security, studied the men sitting in front of him. All members of ASIO as managers of Security, Counter Intelligence, Protective Security and Counter Espionage. The one they were waiting for wasn't part of ASIO.
Lucas first considered Frank Henwood, aged fifty-one with twenty-five years experience behind him. On the corporate ladder he figured he'd gone as far as he could go because of his age. Counter Espionage had been his baby for the last ten years, but his prospects for advancement diminished each year. Married with five kids, he'd seen many countries in his job, but had blown most of his savings on gambling. Now he faced a bleak future unless he suddenly came across a small fortune.
Stewart Gleeson next gained Lucas's attention. He was more comfortable in his prospects. At thirty-eight he held high ambitions, but lacked the patience to wait for promotion. A hundred and eighty-nine centimeters tall, with good looks and a powerful body, he enjoyed the attention of quite a few young ladies. This earned him the nickname "Stud" and he was much envied by other members of the organization. Protective Security was his department and he too had traveled extensively to the many ports requiring his expertise. On more than one occasion he'd entertained women from many lands, some through duty, but mostly through pleasure. He particularly liked to bed Asian girls from Thailand, Malaysia, China, and even Japan. One or two Indian beauties had been pleasured by him along with white women from Scandinavian countries.
Corbet Caine was quite different. He worked for Counter Intelligence and Security. Ambitious, intelligent, but not particularly handsome. He stood a hundred and seventy-eight centimeters tall, with a thin build and a balding head. To succeed with women migrants he used his considerable powers to force them into his bed under threat of deportation. He had a streak of cruelty about him, but only with some who couldn't fight back. He preferred married women who he thought had more experience in what he wanted them to do. Many had left his home sobbing after a day's activity, knowing well they remained at his beck and call if needed.
Bruno Martini had dark Italian looks and suave body language. He'd been hired because of his legal qualifications and skill in using the law to suit his department. Whenever they were stuck, Bruno was the man to figure out a way of getting them out of their fix. Stocky in build, but with a powerful body, he too enjoyed the women made available for him. He didn't have to go looking. All that was needed was a phone call and soon a female would be knocking on his door.
The room had been designed for meetings requiring utter secrecy. Soundproof walls, no listening devices, no surveillance cameras, comfortable chairs, a film screen, computers, and overhead projectors.
Still no one spoke until the soft tap on the door gained their attention.
Lucas leapt to his feet and opened the door to admit the last member of the group.
"Come in, Grant," he said as Grant O'Connor entered the room. "You gentlemen know Inspector Grant O'Connor of the Federal Police?"
The introductions completed, the men waited for Lucas to speak.
"First let me make it very clear that what is said in this room cannot be repeated to others. Not wives, not girlfriends not lovers. Absolutely no one. There will be no minutes kept, no recordings--in fact no one will ever know we met. If anyone talks, it would bring disaster to all of us. Do I make myself clear?"
The others nodded after glancing at each other.
"Anyone who wants to leave, do so now for there's no going back once this is settled."
No one moved, so Lucas continued.
"What is going to happen is the removal of some of the senior men in our organizations. Once this is achieved, each of you will be promoted to a position of power answerable only to me. Once in this position we will influence the Government of the day to do what we require. I can guarantee each of you will receive at least one million dollars during the first year. After that I can see our take improving further."
"How do you know the Government will listen to us?" Gleeson tapped his fingers together, clearly waiting for an answer.
Lucas looked at O'Connor before answering. "Governments listen to the advice given by the heads of departments. If only one piece of advice is given then they may only take it into consideration. If five pieces of advice emerge, all harping on the same thing, then they'll act. Most of the politicians are stupid and have little experience in the matters we'll discuss. They pose for the media and make out that innovations are their ideas. That suits us down to the ground. If it all goes wrong then they're the ones who take the kicks."
"What you have in mind--removing senior people--is highly dangerous. And then subverting government... If we were found out then it would be life in prison for all of us, maybe even a sanction." A frown appeared on Henwood's face.
"That's true. Big rewards call for big risks. However, I have a plan in mind that will cast no suspicion on any of us. Bruno will be the head of legal services. He'll have the Attorney General's ear and advise him on foreign policy and the consequences of decisions. He'll convince him it will be for the good of the country to follow the advice given."
"And just who are the targets? And what will this...advice...lead to?" asked Caine.
"The executive of ASIO, the Director General and the Legal Advisor. The head of the Federal police and perhaps one or two others. Once the Director is out of the way, I'll become Director. I'll appoint you people to fill the positions vacated. Once this happens then we can put the plans into action. I'll explain the long-term stuff in a while."
"It's risky," said Gleeson, obviously turning the options over in his mind.
"Yes, but the rewards make the risk worthwhile. Each and every one of you will hold tremendous power."
Henwood's lip curled into a smile.
"You can influence the way this country is going. You can amass a fortune before you all eventually retire. The future's exciting."
"Even for us, there's still the risk of being discovered," said Martini.
Lucas gave a smile. "Yes--that's why, right now, we need a fall guy. Someone who'll take the blame. We will fabricate evidence pointing towards this person. Once he's dead then he can't refute it. When that happens we will all be appalled by his treacherous conduct and appear to work harder to prevent it ever happening again."
"Then we need someone expendable," said Gleeson, nodding, then flushing as he realized he was stating the obvious. "I know just the man. He's been a pain in the arse for months. He hardly ever listens to advice and wants to run his own operation."
"Who?" asked Lucas, leaning forward.
"Adam Barker. He's been an agent for five years and knows most of what's going on."
Lucas stared at him and grinned. "A good choice, but not quite good enough. Barker is a very competent agent. He's fit and active, but he's not smart enough to put something like this together. I have another in mind."
O'Connor raised an eyebrow. "Can you fill us in?" he asked.
"Kent? Why Kent?" Gleeson said, frowning.
"He's twenty-eight years old. He's been a member of the SAS. Spent some time in East Timor during the crisis. He's very fit and extremely intelligent. The money spent on training him has been worthwhile. He's an expert in unarmed combat, munitions, radio, and firearms. He has no ties. No wife, no fiancee, no current girlfriend. He lost his wife in a motor accident four years ago and has not looked for another relationship. I suppose you could call him a loner. Efficient in whatever he does. Confident in his own ability to get things done. The only true friend he has is Barker."
"He sounds too good to lose," said Caine after taking in Lucas's words.
"He will be a loss, but he fits the bill perfectly. If we select someone else then he's the type who will investigate and may come up with answers. If he's dead then there'll be no problem. He's so clever that everyone will shake their heads and say 'I knew he was too good to be true'."
"Okay, I agree," said Gleeson, looking at the others. Each nodded in turn until all agreed.
"Right. First we have to gather fake evidence before anything's put into place. Then once that is done we can operate the sanctions. I'll speak with each of you alone so that the others won't know what each of you know. That way we have a safety factor. I'll contact each of you when we're ready."
The men left the room to wait until the plot began to unfold.